LAHORE - Though Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem, after taking over, has removed DMD Engineering, AVM, Qasim and DMD Operations, Capt. Humayun Jamil appointed by PML (N) government just few months back, but it is being expected that Shujaat, who has been associated with commercial aviation and other business ventures during past two decades, would launch a thorough surgical cleanup of top management dominated by corrupt mediocrity, under whose watch airline losses have multiplied, revenue pilferage increased massively, human resources diluted and key routes and prime daytime slots surrendered. However it seems that either Shujaat Azeem does not enjoy full powers, or he has been charmed by same lobby that has led many of his predecessors heading CAA and PIA down golden path of ignominy and failures.
It was expected from Shujaat to put in place a team of qualified specialists, like that selected by Nur Khan or Rafiqe Saigol, instead of succumbing to sycophants and courtiers whose credentials have been tainted by controversies and scams of corruption.
The cancer of an incompetent corrupt management reached its zenith in 2008 onwards when PPP government handed reins of national airline to its cronies led by an O-level pass Captain and another former pilot dropout from PAF Risalpur Academy with no formal college education, and another political appointee of Benazir previous tenure, who was directly inducted into PIA Duty Free Shops, a profitable subsidiary till he took over, thereafter becoming bankrupt and finally closing down.
When said captain took over in 2008, he brought three persons from outside PIA, claiming that they would restructure this airline and make it profitable. He brought Saleem Siyani as Deputy Managing Director (DMD), Engineering on a tax-free salary package of over $20,000 paid in Dubai, where his family was put up in a villa, with chauffeur driven limousines at PIA expense. He also directly recruited Sohail Yaqub, his close relative as GM Speedex, a PIA Courier company and his brother-in-law a former PIA steward. He told Board of Director that Saleem Siyani would restructure PIA Engineering and Maintenance, earn revenues from sale of maintenance service, cut costs on procurement etc. By time Sayani was sacked in 2012, PIA Engineering had deteriorated, with controversial procurement contracts signed leading to immense losses, kickbacks and almost half fleet being grounded. It has been learnt from reliable sources that said captain is back in the airlines as a kingmaker, having met a powerful member of Sharif household in Lahore in a meeting facilitated by a Kashmiri politician from Gujrat who has served in PIA in the past. PML(N) appointed Shujaat Azeem as Special Assistant Aviation, who was expected to restructure PIA and CAA, cut losses and put in place a team of qualified professionals with tons of experience in their relative fields of aviation to steer Pakistan International Airlines out of woods. What Azeem must remember is that ICAO has just downgraded Indian Civil Aviation for irregularities in issuing Airline Transport Pilot and CPL licencing. He should be aware of investigation conducted by AVM Mushaf Ali Mir led commission and circumstances that led to imposition of a partial ban imposed by European Union on bulk of PIA fleet operating into European airports. The glaring irregularities in recruitment of over 250 trainee pilots in 2008 -11 and other cadres have been highlighted.
Half of PIA fleet has been grounded, including a brand new B777 which is grounded for past 7 months, its parts cannibalized. Mere induction of 7 to 8 year old aircraft on lease will not resolve the crisis, unless a team of honest qualified professionals is put at helm.